Friday, April 20, 2018

Two Churches in Pasadena

I've always been curious about the Throop church building in Pasadena because it reminded me of the Wicked Witch’s hereditary title in Wicked: The Life and Times of the WIckedWitch of the West: The Eminent Thropp.
But of course the Throop Church, double o, has nothing to do with the Wicked Witch’s family title, double p.
I did not realize that the Universalist Church in America went back to the 18th century, but it does.
The Throop Memorial Church has always been a Universalist church. Like most Universalist churches, in the early 1960s it became a Unitarian-Universalist Church.
The Throop Memorial Church we see today at 300 S. Los Robles actually started out a few blocks away, as the First Universalist Church. It was built at Raymond and Chestnut in 1890 so it could serve the small community of Universalists that had been meeting for four years in various locations. 
Even though that first church was lovely (as you can see below left), the congregation decided to build a new church. In 1923 the Throop Memorial Church--the one we see today--was built on the corner of Los Robles and Del Mar.
Why call it Throop?
One of the community, Amos G. Throop, was a businessman from Chicago and he apparently led the efforts to build a church, contributing money for the land and building. Throop also founded Polytechnic University a year later, which became CalTech (in fact, before 1920 the school was called Throop Polytechnic or Throop University). The year after that he became Mayor of Pasadena. He died shortly after that, in 1894.
Below right is the Throop Memorial Church today--the building that opened in 1923.
The original Universalist church at Raymond and Chestnut? Gone. 
But there is a church on one of the corners there: St. Andrews Catholic Church, with its tall, campanile bell tower. The original St. Andrew's was built in 1886, so it was already there when the First Universalist Church went up in 1890 ... but that original church is also gone.
St. Andrews was rebuilt in its original location, though, even though the name isn’t so cute. (Don’t you think Throop is a cute name?) The Catholic church was completely rebuilt in 1927-1928 at a cost of ONE MILLION DOLLARS. In 1927-pre-Depression money.

The interior design of the new St. Andrew's was inspired by a Byzantine Church, Santa Sabina’s Basilica in Rome--and that church goes back to the 5th century. The pillars in Pasadena are of scagliola, which I believe is an imitation, colored stone/stucco, and they imitate the real marble columns of Santa Sabina in placement and number. 
If you look up Santa Sabina, you’ll see that the columns there are fluted. Before the 5th century church was built, those columns were part of a temple to Juno, and they were reused for the Basilica.
The Pasadena columns are much more colorful. Imitation, shimitation. You can see them well above. Scagliola is used in Buckingham Palace, so it’s not like it’s a low-cost knockoff or anything.
The exterior of the new church copied another Roman church, Santa Maria in Cosmedin, built in 1123. There are minor differences--the original bell tower has six levels of arches holding bells, for instance--but you'd recognize that tower.
I’m still a nut about mosaics, and  this church has a mosaic floor design repeated on the aisles (left). On the walls are other works of art: murals. Carlo Wostry was the artist, an Italian who seemed to move everywhere in Europe in then to America, creating sacred-themed art.
The murals inside St. Andrew's took eight years to complete. In spite of the Depression, parishioners were willing to keep paying and expanding the artist's commission from just painting murals above the altar to adding saints' portraits and Stations of the Cross to decorate the church. Some of the Stations were completed in the artist's home of Trieste and exhibited there, before being boxed up and shipped to Pasadena and installed in St. Andrew's.

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